Getting a college education in Pennsylvania is more expensive than in many other areas of the country, and students generally graduate with higher debt, says a state education report released today.

The report, The Cost of Higher Education in Pennsylvania, says the state ranks as the sixth most expensive in the country for a public college education - costing $532 over the national average.

The report was presented this morning to the State Board of Education in Harrisburg.

It follows a series of public hearings that the State Board held around Pennsylvania on the affordability of college. The board in September had asked the Pennsylvania Department of Education for the report on college costs in the state.

"The cost of attending college in Pennsylvania is a serious and growing concern," the report said. "...a student's ability to pay for college is a significant factor in preventing Pennsylvania from increasing its college-going rate, graduation rate and its efforts to expand access to lower income populations across the state."

A big concern around the country is rising tuition. Nationally during the last five years, tuition and fees have risen 22.5 percent at public two-year schools to $2,361, 31.1 percent at public four-year schools to $6,185, and 14.1 percent at four-year private schools to $23,712, according to the College Board, which tracks trends.

The Pennsylvania report found that lower income students (from families earning $20,000 or less) are most disadvantaged with about 37 percent of their income going to pay for college after loans. Even at community colleges, 24 percent of their income goes to pay for school after loans, the report found.

Of 10 states in the study, Pennsylvania students graduated with the second highest debt on average - $19,047. Only in New Jersey was it higher: $19,294.

Students from the three state-related institutions, including Temple University and Penn State, graduate with more debt than students in any of the nine comparison states, the report said.

At private colleges, they have roughly the same debt as those in other states.

The department also plans to survey Pennsylvania families on how they pay for college. Results should be available in January.

Contact staff writer Susan Snyder at 215-854-4693 or ssnyder@phillynews.com